Forget swiping: Why a Japanese city is encouraging strangers to exchange handwritten love letters

·3 min read

The city of Miyazaki, Japan, is encouraging single individuals to send each other love letters through a matchmaking program created two years ago.

Known as Miyazaki Koibumi, the letter-writing campaign was originally launched in 2020. Applicants looking for matches are paired based on personal information and preferences such as taste in films and books. As a way of encouraging applicants to base their decisions on personality rather than looks, profile photos are not allowed.

Single men and women who reside in Miyazaki or neighboring towns such as Kumitomo and Aya are eligible for the program, and applicants must also be aged 20 and older.

Once a couple has been paired, each individual may send up to five letters without revealing their names or addresses. If the couple requests a face-to-face meeting, a consulting firm commissioned by the program provides each individual with details and leaves the pair to plan the meeting on their own.

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A unique aspect of the program is that participants must drop their letters into a yellow postbox that is described as bringing joy. The yellow postbox was inspired by the mythological story of Princess Toyotama and Yamasachihiko who exchanged love letters in Aoshima.

“It’s less about how good your penmanship is and more the fact that you write every single character sincerely and with care, thinking deeply about the person you’re writing to. That’s what makes letters so powerful,” Miyata Rie, the head of a local consulting firm, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The program was proposed by a city official whose parents used to send each other love letters before marriage as a way of deepening their love and relationship.

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Although no marriages have resulted from the program, 17 couples were brought together from 32 face-to-face meetings. Around 450 applicants have signed up for the program so far, 70% of whom are in their 20s and 30s. In March 2021, 199 women and 132 men were registered for the program, stating that the COVID-19 pandemic motivated the chance “to meet new people.”

“As a kid I used to write letters to the girl I had a crush on,” a 25-year-old male participant told AFP. “I like how old-fashioned letters are. That made me want to join.”

"You worry, 'Did I say something wrong?' when there's no instant reply or it doesn't show that the other person read your message right away. But I knew from the start that letters take time [to arrive], so it didn't stress me out,” a 32-year-old office worker told Mainichi Shimbun.

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Miyazaki Koibumi was created as a way of battling Japan’s low birth rate and declining population. The country recorded its lowest number of births in 2021, with a total of 811,604 births and 1,439,809 deaths. Japan’s population declined by a record number of 629,205, marking the country’s largest natural decline in population to date.

Featured Image via Debby Hudson

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